by Jeff Skinner
As Lorena Ochoa bid farewell to the LPGA and golf in her native Mexico at The Tres Marias Championship, Ai Miyazato continued to put her mark on the 2010 season as she collected her third win in five starts on the tour. Miyazato played steady golf with her only blemish being a bogey on fifteen. Her final round 67 kept her a stroke clear of Stacy Lewis and two ahead of Michelle Wie.
Lorena was met with cheers and tears and she made her way around the course, she was even hugged by Christina Kim on the second hole as Kim played the eighth and ran over to congratulate her friend. Ochoa’s day served as a long victory lap that caps a career that saw her climb to the top spot in the world rankings but more importantly made her one of the most loved and respected players in all of sport. The tour will have a difficult time filling Ochoa’s shoes on the course but Miyazato has taken it upon herself to take over her close friend’s spot as the most dominant player on tour. Her three wins certainly put makes her the best golfer of 2010 but unfortunately she doesn’t attract the fan following of a Michelle Wie. Miyazato broke down as she thanked her very close friend during the awards ceremony.
“I want to say thanks to Lorena,” Miyazato said. “I really appreciate what she did for the LPGA and what she did for her country here in Mexico.” “She is one of my best friends,” Miyazato said, beginning to cry. “I’m going to miss her.”
The LPGA could be on the cusp of a decisive moment in its existence. Two young Americans were within two strokes of winning this event and both are capable of commanding a huge following of fans. Michelle Wie finished only two back of Miyazato and her double bogey on the par three thirteenth cost her a chance at the win. Wie’s coming into her on own the tour can only mean good things for the LPGA and their attempt to get more sponsors. Wie is the single biggest ratings mover in women’s golf. If she starts winning like Miyazato or Ochoa has in the past the tour will have its cure for the Ochoa departure and the best reason for new sponsor dollars since Annika Sorestam.
Sophomore LPGA player Stacy Lewis birdied the last hole to finish one stroke back of Miyazato and claim her best finish on tour. Lewis has found her game that made her a four time All-American at Arkansas and a former number one ranked amateur. Lewis presents a compelling story as a world class golfer who plays with a titanium rod and five screws in her back. Lewis needed the rod inserted to counter the effects of Scoliosis that curved her spine as a youth. Lewis’s story is one of dedication and determination to comeback from what could have been a career ending illness. Lewis hasn’t forgotten her painful comeback from the surgery and is always willing to give her time to the charitable events on The LPGA Tour. She never misses a hospital visit or any of the events put on by the LPGA. She takes “giving back” seriously and if she continues to play this well a win should bring her a legion of fans.